Local education leaders react to IDPH guidance on masking in schools

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PEORIA, ILL. (WMBD) – Following the Illinois Department of Public Health’s recommendation on student masking, school leaders confident the classroom will be safe, but some questions are still unanswered.

In line with the CDC, the Illinois Department of Public Health recently announced vaccinated students aren’t required to wear masks the upcoming school year, while students that have not received the shot are still encouraged to.

“We were excited that something came out, and we were like ok now we can actually plan for the upcoming school year,” said Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, Peoria Public Schools Superintendent.

Kherat said some questions regarding the guidance still remain.

“Do you just say ok we’ll go on the honor system and leave it up to individuals and families to say yes we were vaccinated–Or coming up with some sort of mechanism in terms of how do you distinguish one from the other?,” Kherat asked.

Peoria County’s Regional Superintendent of Education, Beth Crider, said area schools are pushing for local control of COVID-19 decision-making.

“Local control means that based on who they serve, are the decisions that they need to make, and that just looks so vastly different from one school to another,” Crider said.

Crider explained that her office will encourage face coverings for those unvaccinated, but school staff doesn’t want to become “the mask police”.

“What we’re not interested in is going around and asking each child or having a way to designate that and putting that burden on teachers and staff,” Crider said.

Kherat said her district has learned a lot the past year and will continue to make school safe for students.

“We’re going to focus on being a vaccination site, continuing to test, and continuing to layer our mitigations,” Kherat said.

Kherat says some recommendations on COVID-19 guidelines within PPS for this school year should be made by Friday.

“We‌ ‌are‌ ‌pleased‌ ‌to‌ ‌receive‌ ‌this‌ ‌information, but we‌ ‌still‌ ‌have‌ ‌several‌ ‌questions‌ ‌that‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌addressed. Dr Weikle and the Board will review and share information with parents and staff members as soon as possible.”

Dayna Brown, Director of Communications and Community Relations for McLean County Unit District No. 5 

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